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I have had the privilege of guiding the Cree through some of the greatest challenges of our time. These include campaigns to halt environmental degradation in Eeyou Istchee through the Great Whale River Hydroelectric Project and overexploitation of the forest; prevent the dangerous exploitation of uranium; the creation of new environmental protection zones; Creation of the Commission of Inquiry in Quebec to Prevent Discrimination against Indigenous Peoples; and with today`s governance agreement, the last important element of Cree self-government was introduced. The Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee) and the Cree Nation Government have entered into a number of agreements with the governments of Canada and Quebec on various matters of interest to the Cree Nation, including agreements relating to or with matters of justice. Some of these agreements and related legislation include: The James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement expresses the Cree`s inherent right to self-government and provides important support to the modern government of the Cree Nation. It establishes a partnership between the Crees, Quebec and Canada in the management and development of Eeyou Istchee. Cree Nation Government means the legal entity established under section 2 of the Cree Nation Government Compliance Act, CQLR, chapter G-1.031. (The government of the nation mourns) These are all things that national Aboriginal leaders have been talking about for decades as what should be there for reserves across the country. These are the things recommended in the report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. And these are the things that are described in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as aspirations and hopes. And we, here in Eeyou Istchee, have already reached them all. Over the past 40 years, we have focused on our rights and fought to translate the recognition of our rights into benefits for our communities and our people. For me, this Governance Agreement is another step in the very special history of the Cree Nation. This is another step towards realizing the noble vision of restoring our original sovereignty in a contemporary context. This is a new stage in the progress of indigenous peoples around the world.

And this represents a reversal of the destiny of Philix Couchees, where we would all be today, without the vision, determination, hard work and struggles of our leaders and partners that have led us far from such a future and to a very different, healthier and more honorable path. „The Cree Governance Agreement signed today recognizes the Cree Nation Government and Cree First Nations as mature and accountable governments. It continues the work of implementing Cree autonomy under our treaty, James Bay and the Northern Quebec Accord. It will give Cree First Nations and the Cree Government greater autonomy in the administration of Class IA countries. This is another step forward in building the Cree Nation and in our relationship between nations and Canada. Dr. Matthew Coon Come President, Grand Head of Government of the Cree Nation, Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee) Unlike the Cree-Naskapi Act (of Quebec), the Cree Constitution is not governed by federal law. Rather, it is an internal instrument of Cree self-government. This means that the Cree of Eeyou Istchee can change their constitution in the future without Canada being involved. The Cree Nation Governance Agreement was approved today by Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, the Government of Canada and Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come to the Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee)/Cree Nation Government. The Cree First Nations Chiefs of Eeyou Istchee also signed the approval of the Governance Agreement.

This agreement follows the agreement signed in 2008 on a new relationship between the Government of Canada and the Cree of Eeyou Istchee. Negotiations on the last agreement began in 2009 and were completed in autumn 2016. After extensive consultations, the nine Cree First Nations and the Cree Government formally approved the Cree Governance and Constitution Agreement this spring. This agreement and its companion, the Cree Constitution, established a comprehensive Regime of Cree self-government on lands under federal jurisdiction under the 1975 James Bay and Northern Quebec Accord, the first modern Aboriginal land claims agreement and treaty in Canada. The new agreement and constitution will remove the Cree from the application of the Cree-Naskapi Act (of Quebec), a federal law passed in 1984. The Governance Agreement establishes the authority of Cree First Nations to enact laws (rather than statutes) on a variety of local governance on Class IA Cree lands under federal jurisdiction, including environmental protection, public order and safety, land and resource use and planning. The agreement also establishes the authority of the Cree Nation government to legislate on regional governance issues on Class IA Cree lands, such as basic sanitation and fire safety standards. The agreement maintains existing land order over these areas, including access to and granting rights to land and buildings. It also sets out long-term financial arrangements with Canada. An important innovation introduced by the Cree Constitution is that it removes the Canadian government`s oversight of Cree governance on Cree category IA lands.